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Managing back pain

Low back pain is very often not associated with serious or potentially serious causes. Episodes of back pain usually do not last long, with rapid improvements in pain and disability seen within a few weeks to a few months. Contrary to what is common knowledge, one of the worst things to do when you have back pain is have long periods of bed rest as this promotes stiffness, reduces blood supply to the area that needs healing and reducing displacement of toxins.

Recent discoveries in the clinical world have found how much psychology and the nerves play a part in our back-pain recovery and back pain flare ups. In fact, in many cases where back pain persists this is often more associated with the nervous system, rather than pain associated with tissues or structure of the back.

If you have a back issue then these key points can be really helpful in changing your mindset on what is happening to your body:

  • If we are concerned our backs are still damaged, it can delay our recovery
  • When back pain persists, it will affect your mood
  • The way people around you respond to your back pain can influence your recovery
  • Believing it is someone else’s job to fix your back will prevent recovery
  • Familiar flare ups in back pain are not due to damage to the spine
  • How you think when you experience a flare up in back pain will influence how quickly you recover
  • When back pain persists it is unlikely to be due to damage to the structure in your back

Therefore, it is important to take control about how you think about you pain to help speed up your recovery.

Pain is a protective factor to prevent further injury but can also hinder recovery due to fear of further pain. Part of the brain stores memories and a flare up of back pain can be a ‘threat response’ to the brain resulting in fear of long-term pain. Thinking or worrying about a threat or concern can set off a threat response in the brain. Therefore, try to think positively about where you are now and the future.

  • You may hurt more to begin with
  • It is natural to feel cautious – this is the brains response to protect you
  • Your back gets stronger with movement
  • Nothing is damaged
  • Keeping active will promote recovery
  • Your hurts won’t harm you
  • It is safe to get moving
  • Use your flare up plan

Having a flare up plan can help you feel you are in control of your back pain, not the other way round. Remember there will be good days and bad days but if you stick to your flare up plan you will be sure to recover at a steady page.

  1. Keep calm
  2. Accept it
  3. Do a quick body check (no numbness, pins and needles, leg giving way under you)
  4. Check your thoughts (need to be positive)
  5. Breathe 7/11 – in for a count of 7, out for a count of 11
  6. Stretch
  7. Modify your activity – speak to your manager if in work
  8. Keep active
  9. Use medication
  10. Return to normal activity as soon as possible
  11. Reflect – on why it happened and learn

If you are struggling with back pain and it is affecting your ability to work (either through the pain or mental fatigue from the pain) – don’t suffer in silence – speak to your line manager about getting referral to Occupational Health. They may be able to recommend changes to work set-up or provide physiotherapy. Alternatively, depending on whether you meet the criteria, they may refer you onto the Council’s Exercise Referral Scheme.


Page updated: 08/12/2020 12:40:52